Poets of the Past and Present in 2014 Spotlight (part 1 of 2)

Cover of Enoh Meyomesse's

“Sometimes: the struggle and willingness to say the unsayable –– has cost poets and artists their lives.”––from Journey through the Power of the Rainbow

Each year the value, presence, and volume of poetry in the world intensifies after spring arrives largely because the international community celebrates March 21 as World Poetry Day and people in the United States celebrate National Poetry Month in April. Both of these events since their establishment––National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and World Poetry Day by UNESCO in 1999––have served to magnify the focus on, and respect for, poetry as a universal cultural legacy.

People around the globe felt World Poetry Day significant enough that they celebrated it (some are still doing so) in a number of notable ways, from individual blog posts and the publication of new books to poetry festivals and extended open mic nights. In Ghana, for example, theater groups, members of writers’ workshops, and spoken word artists worked with the Goethe Institute and G3 Channels to stage presentations. At the Customs House in Sydney, Australia, multilingual poets presented recitals in indigenous Aboriginal dialects as well as in English.

Poetry and Freedom: the Case of Enoh Meyomesse

One of the more powerful observations of the day came from English Pen, the original hub for the PEN International collective of literary affiliates (which includes PEN American Center) dedicated to advocating freedom of expression in literature and journalism. True to its mission, prior to World Poetry Day, PEN sent out a call asking “our supporters to help translate imprisoned poet Enoh Meyomesse’s work into as many different languages as possible…”    

For the complete article by Aberjhani please click the link:
Poets of the past and present in 2014 spotlight (part 1 of 2) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.


Juneteenth 2012 Editorial with Poem: Every Hour Henceforth


Cover of forthcoming eBook Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black.

The story behind the annual Juneteenth celebration is now fairly well known. The event commemorates June 19, 1865, the day slaves in Galveston, Texas, and other parts of the state learned for the first time they had actually been freed via the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

There is not much with which to compare such an event to in the year 2012. But try this: imagine how a group of prisoners might feel if they learned their innocence had been proven years ago and orders for their release signed but left forgotten in someone’s desk drawer.

At this point in time, just three years before the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, the holiday has come to represent a great deal more than recognition of delayed freedom. A statement from the Juneteenth Worldwide Celebration website founded by Clifford Robinson put it as follows:

“Juneteenth is a day of reflection, a day of renewal, a pride-filled day.  It is a moment in time taken to appreciate the African American experience.  It is inclusive of all races, ethnicities and nationalities – as nothing is more comforting than the hand of a friend.”

To read the full article and poem by Aberjhani please click this link:
Juneteenth 2012 Essay with Poem: Every Hour Henceforth

Evolution of a Vision: from Songs of the Angelic Gaze to The River of Winged Dreams

Hardback edition of The River of Winged Dreams

Hardback edition of The River of Winged Dreams

The notion of one powerful dream dying and another rising amidst its ashes was new to me until the life and energy of a dream that for years had empowered my creative endeavors came to an end. I was stunned because while I had accepted the reality of dreamers dying, I had never even considered the possibility that a dream itself could die. After all, it had not collapsed like a physical human body or dried up like an abused rose. It had simply gone from a recognized state of existence to an unrecognized non-existence and left me baffled in the wake of a sudden terror-filled inertia.

I accepted that the end of the dream must in some ways mean the end of me and prepared myself for whatever exactly that might mean. But although dreams are always specific to individuals they are not always respecters of persons and I found myself wrestling for a while with interpretations of a dream-informed life that was still very much in progress.

Then something which previously had eluded me became suddenly apparent: the death of a dream can in fact serve as the vehicle that endows it with new form, with reinvigorated substance, a fresh flow of ideas, and splendidly revitalized color. In short, the power of a certain kind of dream is such that death need not indicate finality at all but rather signify a metaphysical and metaphorical leap forward.

Had I not been so panicked by the notion of my beloved life-enhancing dream coming to an end, I would have realized sooner that, from the very beginning, a major part of its pattern had always been change and adaptability. It had in fact started out as a manifestation of literary visions entitled Songs of the Angelic Gaze, so named because in a season of visions of angels (during the summer of 2006) I found myself transcribing what I saw into short and long chains of poetry.  At one point there came an image in which I stood with my father looking at a bridge teeming with angels––this sighting produced two editions of a book called The Bridge of Silver Wings. The second edition included works on ancestors, the newly-elected President of the United States Barack Obama, and a new suite of angel-inspired stanzas. Just as this second edition was titled The Bridge of Silver Wings 2009, I was fully prepared to produce a 2010 edition when the noted evolution occurred and the book now titled The River of Winged Dreams was born.

Four major poem additions to The River of Winged Dreams set it apart from its predecessors: “Sounds Scribbled Mixed-Media Platinum”; “Notes for an Elegy in the Key of Michael (I)”;  “Notes for an Elegy in the Key of Michael (II)”; and the title poem. Each of these stands out in its own right and light. “Sounds Scribbled Mixed-Media Platinum” was written during a sound painting performance, featuring Savannah’s Creative Force Artist Collective and jazzman saxophonist Jody Espina, at the Jepson Center for the Arts. My purpose for attending the event was to write a news article about it but as the painters and sculptors created their extraordinary works, while Espina and his ensemble exploded jazz throughout the atrium of the Jepson Center, my pen insisted on dancing to their creative beat and the poem wrote itself in the space intended for my notes.

The two “Elegies in the Key of Michael” are among the most surprising additions to the book, first because of the unexpected death of the great Michael Jackson in June 2009, and because of the haiku-influenced form assumed by the elegies.  The title poem arrived to announce the possibility I had failed to acknowledge: that built within the conclusion of a certain kind of dream were the beginnings of another capable of simultaneously redefining and extending the previous dream. It could even be that the whole purpose of the construction of The Bridge of Silver Wings was to provide a path leading to The River of Winged Dreams, or to serve as a resting place until the river’s deeper and truer nature revealed itself.

Once that deeper more true nature became clear, I had to smile at the perfect sense it made. A river is nearly the ultimate symbol for the very essence of change itself. It flows unceasing from one point of being to another, yet continuously occupying the same bed or pathway, and accommodating life’s endings with the same musical grace with which it accommodates life’s beginnings, along with all the muted and explosive moments that surface between the two extremes. The gift of this awareness did two wonderful things: the first was that it confirmed my growing conviction about the power of a given dream.  The second was that it extended, magnified, and clarified those Songs of the Angelic Gaze that first enchanted readers, listeners, and this author with the bold brilliance of their strength and the cool shimmer of their unsettling humility.

by Aberjhani
Savannah, Georgia

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Bring on the Poets, Bring on the Jazz

A president and his horn--Bill Clinton shows his appreciation of jazz. (photo by the Smithsonian Institute)

A president and his horn–Bill Clinton shows his appreciation of jazz. (photo by the Smithsonian Institute)

Having nothing at all to do with April Fool’s Day, events for both National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month got underway across the United States yesterday, April 1, 2010.

In Chicago, Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott, whose latest book is White Egrets, helped kick off the poetry side of the month-long celebration with a free reading at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The jazz segment got help from a performance by the New York based Argentine bassist Pablo Aslan and his Quintet, which performed at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History Carmichael Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

The Power of a Poet’s Voice

National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Upon that occasion, then President Bill Clinton joined the celebration by issuing from the White House a letter of congratulations in which he noted the following:

“…America has been blessed by the powerful voices of our poets. Dedicated artists, innovators, and stewards of our language, they tell us not only who we are, but also who we can become. They distill our emotions, clarify our thoughts, and renew our spirits with the vigor of their words and the freshness of their perspective. National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poets .”
–former President Bill Clinton, April 1, 1996

The Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American poets itself was founded in 1934 by Marie Bullock, a patron of literature who was discouraged over what she felt was a lack of cultural and aesthetic integrity where poetry in the United States was concerned. By that time, the Harlem Renaissance had actually been in full swing for at least a decade but the now famous poets it produced would not receive proper recognition for several more decades to come.  Among them where such accomplished individuals as: Gwendolyn Bennett, Sterling Brown, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer.

Newly published Poem in Your Pocket Anthology.

The annual celebration by the Academy of American Poets features a wide variety of events and programs designed to enhance public awareness of the value of poetry in general, increase its representation in school curriculums, sponsor readings, promote the publication of new books, and perhaps most significantly, share poetry.  To help accomplish this last goal, in 2009 the Academy launched Poem In Your Pocket Day, which this year will be observed on April 29. It also started the Poem-A-Day program that allows poetry lovers to receive a different poem by email every day throughout the month of April.

One of the strongest initiatives employed by the Academy to accomplish its poetic goals has been a request submitted to city mayors, asking them to issue official proclamations in support of National Poetry Month. Thus far, cities which have complied with the request include: New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pensacola, Bridgeport, Portland, Tucson, Seattle, and Boston.

Please click here for: Poetry and jazz lovers kick off month-long celebrations Part 2

by Aberjhani

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Musician-Artist Don Dean’s Eclectic Human Condition

Self Portrait artwork by Don Dean. (used by permssion of the artist)

Self Portrait artwork by Don Dean. (used by permssion of the artist)

Popular media references to the 1960s musical British Invasion headed by history-changing acts like the Beatles and Rolling Stones are far more common–at least on the U.S. side of the planet–than references to the corresponding African America’s Rhythm and Blues invasion of the United Kingdom that took place during the same period. That was when classic giants of the genre–think Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and the powerhouse duo Sam and Dave–took their homegrown artistry to Great Britain and received a kind of acclaim they had not yet received on their home turf.

Just as Europe embraced the early exporters of jazz during the 1920s and 1930s, the United Kingdom later welcomed the influence of rhythm and blues, and that influence remains evident in radio beats streaming out of the country across the airwaves and Internet. Born and raised in Watford, England, some twenty miles from downtown London, musician and fine artist Don Dean was among those natives who grooved along to R&B while later incorporating elements of it and successive musical movement into both his visual work and his acoustic arts.

Dean’s first declaration of his own brand of sonic soul came with the CD Live and Raw in 2006, followed by Family Portrait in 2007, and And So It Begins in 2008. With each release, the composer-musician fine tuned a gourmet blend of cultural styles, which would seem less remarkable if he had undergone years of formal training to accomplish such a professional feat. As it happens, Dean acted out of creative “necessity,” writing his own material and then teaching himself to play whatever instruments were required for a particular song, whether wind, string, keyboard or percussion in nature.

“My aim,” he pointed out, “is to create a soundscape fusing live vocals and solos with samples, electronics with acoustics, sometimes dreamy and sometimes edgy, mixing soul with rock and fusing Latin/Afro rhythms.”

The time-tested formula is one that seems to have reached a kind of apex with Eclectic, Dean’s fourth and most recent release. But music lovers can actually gauge for themselves how close he has gotten to his mark by visiting his profile page on Creative Thinkers International (please see links below). There, his music player showcases some thirteen tunes from various works, including “Free Part 2,” which features the silk-and-smoke soulful vocals of songman Randolph Matthews.

The new CD/MP3 as a whole marks the kind of performance that makes for a potential major breakthrough in one of toughest industries around, and that expands the cultural status of a musical free spirit.

The Eclectic Biography of a Budding Artist

Interestingly enough, for all the blended African and Latino flavors of his music, Dean himself is the product of a union between a German mother and English father. Growing up during an era of general racial and cultural intolerance, he recalls that, “I was bullied and actually spat on ‘cause my mum was German. But then guess what, when I went to Germany to visit my relatives there, I was spat on and bullied for being English.”

Life within his immediate family brought its problems as well. Difficulties between his parents eventually ended in divorce, ushering in a period of poverty and resentment following his father’s departure.

As often tends to be the case with creative souls, a major constant in Dean’s somewhat turbulent life was his double passion for art and music. Visual art was the first major manifestation of his “voice” and the means by which he communicated moods and messages even before starting grade school. His introduction to music came at the age of twelve when he joined the school band. “That’s where I learned to read and write music and played in the band until I left at sixteen, reaching the grand exalted rank of band captain and lead trumpet.”

Ironically, decades would pass before the seeds of artistry planted so early in his life would start to blossom in a major and beautiful way. The pull between creative passion on the one hand and cultural tension on the other likely had a lot to do with why he left home as a teenager and eventually traveled around countries in Europe and Africa, absorbing the different cultural vibes that give meaning and substance to life in the more expansive global village. The diversity of those travels has been reflected in both his life and his art, through audio samples from speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., to newscasts of the Vietnam War and visual portraits that illustrate not just racial diversity but brightly painted environmental harmony.

Among the more unbelievable aspects of the musician-artist’s life is the fact that he has produced his incredible body of work and made it available to the public all without the expertise of a formal agent or manager. In addition, he has done so while coping with the challenges of caring for a disabled parent and simultaneously coping brilliantly with the constant pain generated by his own physical issues. As full, productive, and challenging as his life is, he recently made time to discuss his Eclectic creative journey:

Continues with Part 2: the Interview

by Aberjhani

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